Canned Fruits and Vegetables Matter Too

Emelia Clement  |  1/12/2014 7:09:28 AM

Canned fruits and vegetables serve as a nonperishable and safe substitute for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Consumption of canned fruits and vegetables can contribute significantly to meeting dietary needs. They are great for soups, casseroles, stews and other mixed dishes and in smoothies.

Benefits

Canned fruits and vegetables are important sources of nutrients because they are canned soon after harvest when loss of nutrients is minimal and quality is high. Some nutrients are lost during the canning process, but once canned, they maintain most of their vitamin and mineral content throughout shelf life. Some disease fighting nutrients (phytochemicals) become even more available to the body as a result of the canning process. Examples are lycopene in tomato paste and lutein in corn; also the beta carotene (Vitamin A) content in canned pumpkin is three times higher than in cooked fresh pumpkin.

Canned fruits and vegetables are flavorful and convenient because they are already peeled, cut, sliced and cooked and require just reheating before use.

They are also useful in stretching food dollars because they are often cheaper than their fresh counterparts and available all year. Since they last for years, it is cheaper to buy in bulk during sales and you can save even more by using coupons.

Usage and Handling

Wipe the top of can with a wet cloth before opening. Discard the can if it spurts out when opening or has a strange smell or appearance. If your canned vegetables are not reduced salt or salt-free, reduce the sodium content by rinsing with water and draining just before use. Once opened, the food becomes perishable and should be heated and used or stored in the refrigerator right away. Refrigerator storage should not exceed 3 days for canned vegetables and 7 days for canned fruits. To avoid overcooking and prevent loss of nutrients, steam or microwave canned fruits and vegetables instead of boiling for long periods. Always pour out fruits and vegetables from the can before use.

Selection

Follow these tips when shopping to choose the best canned foods:

  • Choose cans in good shape with no bulges, dents, cracks or rust.
  • Watch out for dusty cans or torn labels; they may indicate old stock.
  • Check the expiration or best by date to ensure the product has not expired.
  • Choose cans with less sodium and added sugars by comparing the nutrition information on the Nutrition Fact Label.
  • Choose canned fruit “packed in its own juices," “unsweetened” or in “100% fruit juice” because they have less added sugars and therefore fewer calories than those packed in either “light” or “heavy” syrup.
  • For a healthier option, choose canned vegetables with less sodium. Choose cans with the description “no salt added” or “reduced sodium."

Storage

To maintain the nutritive value and quality of canned fruits and vegetables in storage:

  • Store cans in a clean, dry and moderately cool (50-70oF), but not freezing, space.
  • Rotate the foods so the oldest is used first. Try to use canned food within a year of storage and no later than two years.
  • Check cans for rust or leakage, especially around the seam. Throw away rusted or leaking cans and expired cans.

Canned fruits and vegetable consumption is safe for most people but should be limited for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women due to the potential health risks of BPA, a chemical used in the lining of food cans which has been linked to health problems in some laboratory animals.

Sources:
American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Revised and Updated 4th Edition by Betsy Hornick, Roberta Larson Duyff, and Alma Flor Ada
Safe Handling of Canned Goods, Clemson Cooperative Extension
Canned Goods, Utah State University Extension
Spotlight on Cupboard Storage, Purdue Extension
Storing canned food, University of Minnesota Extension
Food Pantry Staples: Canned Vegetables, www.eatsmart.umd.edu
Canned Food Myths - Busted!, www.mealtime.org

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